NFL linebacker rankings: All 32 units entering the 2020 NFL season - Steve Palazzolo
20. BALTIMORE RAVENS
Ravens linebackers saw the field on a league-low 815 snaps during the regular season as they de-emphasized the position and loaded up on defensive backs instead.
The draft shows that the linebackers will have a bigger role for Baltimore in 2020, however, as they drafted LSU’s Patrick Queen in the first round and Ohio State’s Malik Harrison in the third. Queen is a modern-day, athletic linebacker who flies around the field making plays against the run and in coverage. He does need to clean up his run fits and tackling, but Queen has just over 1,000 snaps of experience under his belt, so he has plenty of room to grow.
Harrison is more of a throwback, and he’s coming off an impressive 87.1 grade against the run last season. L.J. Fort returns after a solid 270 snaps in which he graded at 73.5 last season, but Josh Bynes and Patrick Onwuasor both move on, leaving about 900 snaps of playing time for the rookies and Fort to fill.
Baltimore looks better in the long term at linebacker, and they may take a big step forward this season, as well.
Training Camp Breakdown: Inside Linebacker - Clifton Brown
Fort won’t surrender a starting spot without a challenge. He played consistently after being signed in Week 5 last year and earned a contract extension. Fort’s experience is valuable, he’s a savvy blitzer, and he gives the Ravens a reliable option if either Queen or Harrison aren’t ready early. Having Fort in the linebacker room is a plus whether he starts or not.
Under the Radar
This camp should tell a lot about Board. He was in the running for a starting job during training camp last year, but he lost momentum following a preseason concussion.
7. Mark Ingram
2019 stats: 5.1 YPC, 4.6 xYPC, +0.51 RYOE per attempt, 903 ERY, 101 RYOE
It’s funny; when toying with minimum-carry thresholds, I noticed Ingram’s teammate Gus Edwards outperformed him in RYOE per attempt — but on nearly 100 fewer attempts. We bumped it up to 150 to get a better picture of those receiving consistent carries, and of course, Ingram, the lead back (though not the lead rusher) of the NFL’s best rushing offense, appeared in the top 10. The wild statistic that you won’t find anywhere else on this list was Ingram’s astronomical 4.6 xYPC, an indicator of the Ravens’ highly successful offensive line.
Ranking NFL’s top 10 quarterback/coach duos in 2020: Carson Wentz, Doug Pederson crack the top 5 - Jeff Kerr
4. Lamar Jackson/John Harbaugh — Baltimore Ravens
Jackson was very impressive in his first full season as a starter, setting a new standard for scrambling quarterbacks. Not only did Baltimore have the highest-scoring offense in football, Jackson became the first quarterback to throw for over 3,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards in a single season. He also had the most rushing yards by a QB in a season in NFL history (1,206), while leading the league in TD passes (36) and touchdown percentage (9.0). In the final eight games Jackson played in the regular season in 2019, he completed 69.4% of his passes for 1,477 yards, 25 TDs and just one INT. He also had 630 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns.
All of this culminated in Jackson becoming the youngest MVP winner in league history as the Ravens finished 14-2 and earned home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs. Jackson has failed to win a playoff game in two appearances, but is also just 23 years old heading into 2020.
Harbaugh deserves a ton of credit for Jackson’s development, even if he defers the play calling to offensive coordinator Greg Roman and has quarterbacks coach James Urban play a steady hand in Jackson’s development. The duo is 19-3 in just 22 starts, as Jackson has thrown 42 TDs to 9 INTs while rushing for 1,901 yards and another 12 TDs.
The pair just needs to get over the hump in the postseason, where Jackson has turned the ball over five times, been sacked 11, and completed just 51.1% of his passes. The Ravens thrive off the running game, which Harbaugh essentially abandoned once the Titans took a double-digit lead in the third quarter of the AFC divisional round playoff loss in 2019.
Harbaugh and Jackson can easily crack the top three on this list with a postseason run.
2019 Offensive Personnel Analysis - Bryan Knowles
Baltimore had over 300 snaps with two backs in the backfield, but only 20 were listed as I-formation as the Ravens basically lived in the pistol. There were 964 plays last season charted as being in the pistol; Baltimore had 552 of them. 343 of those plays had at least two running backs on the field; Baltimore had 230 of those. Like Arizona, Baltimore was basically running a college offense, albeit one Greg Roman had used with success in San Francisco before.
Baltimore’s DVOA out of the pistol was actually worse than their DVOA in other formations (26.1% to 38.9%), but that’s mostly due to the fact that Baltimore ran out of the pistol roughly three quarters of the time, with both running backs and Lamar Jackson being significant threats with their legs. Their passing DVOA dropped from 56.0% to 47.0% in the pistol, while their run DVOA jumped from 5.7% to 19.0%; even for the league’s most efficient rushing team, passing still was better on average. Baltimore’s offense is incredibly fun to watch, and other teams should copy it as soon as possible — as soon as they find a dual-threat player like Jackson to plug in. Shouldn’t be too difficult, right?